Cover design is a critical part of book publishing. When I first began self-publishing, I was pretty apprehensive. I have a photography background, I’ve taken plenty of art classes, and I know how to use the software, but actually making a cover is another matter entirely. I decided that I would give it a shot, and if I couldn’t make something I was satisfied with, I’d hire someone to do it for me.
The first one was difficult but in the end I was pleased with it. Looking back, I can see things I would do differently now, but overall, I’m still quite happy with it. There has been a clear improvement in skill from cover to cover however. I can honestly say that the covers for Equals and Partners are some of my favorites. I think they capture the feel of the story and each element combines to entice the reader. After all, that’s the whole point of the cover, right? It’s there to draw in the reader.
Finding (affordable) stock photography is a challenge, especially when looking for gay couples. The few that are available have certainly been used before and the last thing I want to do is repeat what other artists have already done.
As I write, I always find photo inspiration. I’m a visually based writer and I love having a picture of my characters as I write. Typically, I have a vague image in my head that solidifies once I find the right photo.
Finding a stock photo that fit my mental image of Russ and Stephen was impossible, so I went slightly more abstract. Equals begins with Russ slipping on coffee Stephen spilled. I was very pleased when I found the silhouetted image of a man with crutches. It was easy to imagine that man as Russ. Finding a picture to represent Stephen was a bit more difficult, however. I wanted one that conveyed confidence and power, without crossing the line into arrogance.
Although it had more to do with the particular layout of the photos than anything, I discovered I liked positioning Russ picture at the bottom of the cover, and Stephen at the top. It subtly highlighted the power/income disparity between them.
For the cover, I began with a blue/green background that had a faint pattern to it. When I added the character images and put on the text it was still quite bland. I have a friend who has a great eye for covers and he suggested I include the skyline of Atlanta, where the story is set. Once I found the right image and overlaid it, it all began to come together. With a few minor tweaks with effects and some additional blending, I finally felt like it was ready. I often set covers aside for a few days to be sure I’m still happy with it. Sometimes what seems great initially doesn’t look as wonderful later. This one, however, still felt right after a few weeks and I knew I had made the right choice.
When I began to work on the cover for Partners, I knew I wanted there to be continuity between the two covers. I began with the same blue/green patterned background, but this time I tweaked it until it was more green than blue. The image I found of men holding hands was not a silhouette, but with a little bit of work, I was able to make it one. I think it nicely ties the two covers together. This story is about Russ and Stephen being on equal footing and learning that they can rely on each other. Having them both at the same level and visually connected was a nice echo of that. Partners is set in a small town in southern Georgia, and one of the places they visit is the pecan farm Stephen grew up on. I found a beautiful image of a pecan grove to use and after playing with filters and effects for a very long time, I finally settled on the image below. Although there are differences between the two—color, layout, font color—there are many similiarities and I think the two covers make a nice pair.